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Night emergency
Forfatter: Aina Villanger
Forlag: (Forlaget Oktober, Norge)
Aina Villanger has written a collection of poems that will communicate, in a setting that is intimate and universal at the same time.


Night emergency begins with a quote by Camille Paglia: "The most common violence in the world is childbirth, with its horrible pain and bloodshed." It is not so easy to discuss this claim when you are a man, although you may have witnessed both one and several births on up close – the pain and blood have been seen and heard, but this thing that Paglia calls violence, naturally knows only the woman who gives birth. On the whole, as a man, you are a little distant and consider Aina Villanger's poem about birth and the birth of children.

The fact that the body gives up a living life also paradoxically points to death

Still, the collection is written in a language that does not exclude us guys from what is about an existential basic situation, especially for the newborn child, but also for the mother, the one who leads the I voice in the poems. Villanger's language lacks neither metaphors nor what can be called good poetic compression, but the tone and the formulations are never far from the ordinary and general: These are poems that will communicate and showcase a setting that is both intimate and universal at the same time .

The mirror of the gaze

The first setting is the bed in the maternity ward of the hospital, where the mother lies with her newborn son. And the boy's screams for puppets dominate the poems. Hunger awakens the baby, it opens its mouth and lets out the scream, and the mother responds as best she can with the milk she has to give. It may sound banal, but that's what it is about in the very first phase of life: We crave food, we scream for it. And the mother must supply us, she is the food supply, and that already at birth creates perhaps the only form of symbiosis that exists between two people. Villanger is a bit ironic about this as she writes: "Are we there now? / in the like-child-mother-symbiosis / human confinement. "

These are poems that will communicate.

The last word here is a bit of a metaphor, brutal, with heavy sexual charge, and on the border of the incestuous. This "give-me-pupp" situation is also reasonably incestuous, but Villanger really speculates little or nothing on the sexual dimension between mother and child, not least the one often implied between mother and son.

But here you also find an in-depth description of the eye contact between mother and baby, yes, it is in fact both self-dissolving and transcending. As Villanger writes: "now we save each other / the glance is an encircling or encircling / a dive into each other's self-loathing / as if we were on short visits / in each other's foreign homes / a watch / a raw meeting." You can see this as the kid's first mirror in a different look and what it means, and also what it means for the mother to face that look, like from another life. The range is staggering for both, and Villanger stacks up a whole host of metaphors to illuminate it.

Biological archetype

The fact that the body gives up a living life, paradoxically also points to death. A newborn baby can die, and the thought of this fragility changes the consciousness of a mother (it does in both parents). Everyday small and big dangers become clear as never before, a persistent threat lurks in the mind and stays there as long as the kid has to be protected from anything that can happen – even if it almost never happens. You see both the psychological and the existential aspect of taking care of a small, defenseless being.

The woman as mother remains in a way a biological archetype.

It demands it, and Villanger also writes about his own mother, who filled fifty-seventh senses with information about everyday life, family and children. The notebooks span both years and decades and impressively illustrate the scale of a parent's and mother's life: "it all says / is written in lowercase / in fifty-seventh senses / page by page / how children grow / how children begin at school / how the weather is / who comes to visit / who calls who / who has a birthday today… ”Nothing is too trivial, everything matters, everything has a bearing on something. Also what happens between a mother and a son who slowly grows away from the symbiosis they were both forced into when the boy had to breastfeed to survive.

The woman as mother in a way remains a biological archetype; what has always happened also continues to happen to her, as it says: "every pregnant woman / is a pagan and primitive / a return to the shores of the distant ocean / that we have never quite evolved from / writes the philosopher / every woman having a grandchild / is a confirmation today / that the world has never changed. " These are, by far, brave words at a time when ahistorical statements are often driven and often torn into pieces. Whether Villanger personally stands for them is a little uncertain from the context, but much in this collection argues for it. To me it seems like a wise position, not least because it is based on experience. And the experience as a mother is the only thing that really qualifies to write poetry about births in a fairly secure way.

Kurt Sweeney
Kurt Sweeney
Literary critic.

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